PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a thief. It can steal your family, your health, your job and your ambition. It can also steal your beliefs. This is not a confession or a plea for sympathy. Rather it is a statement of what happens when an event is so powerful that it destroys your faith: faith in yourself, faith in your world and faith in your God. This is not my tale alone. Others who have served their country, men and women whom I have sat with during many, many group therapy sessions, have talked about their loss of faith due to PTSD. Of course not everyone has that loss but there are several of us out there.
The most common question that I hear, and the one that I ask, is “How can God let this happen?” You suffer from guilt and shame. You need someone to take these burdens away, to accept responsibility. Many times you place that burden on the shoulders of God and when the pain does not go away your faith does. The following quote is from Dr. John Zemler, PhD, a disabled US Army Veteran with PTSD. “PTSD wants you to give up on God. It tells you you will never have peace. That way you will also give up on yourself and others. Many succumb to the PTSD-Identity and may deny God or think that they are unworthy of God. What if I don’t want to be in relationship with God? Can I become so disappointed in God, in life, in others, and my own actions as to deny the possibility of ever being in God’s Presence again, ever being at Peace again?” When you reach that point, at least in my case, life has lost most of its meaning.
Whether I had heard this analogy before or came up with it on my own I honestly can’t remember. It does, however, illustrate the way I feel. “Imagine the whole universe consists of only a room with four walls, a ceiling, a floor, a table and a candle. Nothing else exists, just you and the room. First take away the ceiling. Then take away the walls. Remove the floor. Take away the table. Now blow out the candle. That, many times, is my mental universe.
The purpose of this post? Hopefully it will generate some discussion that will be of help or comfort to myself or others.
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